Someday, the textbooks might look back on the results of the United Kingdom's Brexit referendum as the beginning of the end of the European Union, if not Great Britain itself.
That's not necessarily hyperbole. In the hours since the British voted to leave the EU, global markets have dropped significantly. Some experts say that the longterm results could be worse than the 2008 financial crisis. Other countries, seeing that the UK held a referendum, could soon want referendums of their own. The European project could come quickly crumbling down.
Meanwhile, leaders in Scotland and North Ireland—both of which voted to remain in the EU— have already publicly stated that they will consider referendums of their own to leave the UK in favor of EU membership. Great Britain could easily break up.
What could have driven the British people to make such a choice?
One of the best responses to that question actually came from the comments section in a story posted in the Financial Times. In it, user Nicholas spells out who is to blame for the potentially catastrophic vote, their motives behind the vote, and what it all means for the grim, "post-factual" times we live in:
A quick note on the first three tragedies. Firstly, it was the working classes who voted for us to leave because they were economically disregarded and it is they who will suffer the most in the short term for the dearth of jobs and investment. They have merely swapped one distant and unreachable elite for another one. Secondly, the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors. Thirdly and perhaps most significantly, we now live in a post-factual democracy. When the facts met the myths they were useless as bullets bouncing off the bodies of aliens in a HG Wells novel. When Michael Gove said 'the British people are sick of experts' he was right. But can anybody tell me the last time a prevailing culture of anti-intellectualism has lead to anything other than bigotry?
The parallels of this scenario in American contemporary politics almost write themselves. The campaign of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump— who has cheered on the Brexit results— has followed roughly the same formula with the same constituency. Trump has been able to brazenly lie his way into people's hearts.
No amount of fact-checking or expertise can shift some voters' opinion about Trump. In fact, experts trying to explain the consequences of his proposed policies only bolster his popularity. The experts—the insiders—are the bad guys. Trump, who is none of these things, is the folk hero coming to save the experts from their better senses.
"Before the Brexit vote, I didn’t believe it could happen here," wrote my colleague Felix Salmon after the results came in. But today, the prospect seems even more real.
A lot could happen between now and November. Perhaps people in the U.S. will look at the UK and decide to take heed of some of the consequences experts have long been warning about. Perhaps.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.